Emotional night at 1st Academy of Country Music Awards since Vegas shooting

Emotional night at 1st Academy of Country Music Awards since Vegas shooting

The 2018 Academy of Country Music Awards marked a memorable night for the victims of the deadly Las Vegas shooting, comeback queen Carrie Underwood, and triple winners Chris Stapleton and Miranda Lambert.

For the third consecutive time, Jason Aldean on Sunday was named entertainer of the year. At this year's awards show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, he also paid tribute to the 58 people who died at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in the Nevada city, where he performed last October. 

"It's been a rough year," Aldean said, thanking those who "showed us love and support over the last six months."

The ACMs brought the country music community back to Vegas six months after the deadly tragedy. Aldean was onstage when the shooting occurred.

"You guys are in our hearts always," Aldean said. "We love Las Vegas. Vegas strong."

Carrie Underwood performs Cry Pretty at the 53rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday in Las Vegas. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Though Aldean beat out Stapleton for the top honour, Stapleton's Sunday was met with many high points: His wife, Morgane, gave birth to twin boys, he celebrated his 40th birthday and the leading nominee, who didn't attend the show, won male vocalist of the year and album of the year, where he won twice as a singer and producer.

Underwood also had a big night, returning to the stage like an A-List veteran in her first television appearance since injuring her face and wrist last year due to a fall at her home. Her powerhouse vocals shined when she performed her new song, Cry Pretty, earning a rousing — and long — standing ovation.

'1 woman to do the job of 2 men'

Immediately following the performance, she won vocal event of the year for the dance-infused country song The Fighter, with Keith Urban.

"I am still kind of shaking right now," she added, appearing teary-eyed.

"Seeing her stand up there and be so beautiful, she's one of the greatest singers of all-time in any genre of music," Lambert said backstage of Underwood. "I am just proud of her and I know how strong she is and how hard she's worked."

Reba McEntire, left, with Kelly Clarkson, performed Does He Love You together while McEntire served as show host. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

But Lambert's hard work also paid off: She made history when she surpassed Brooks and Dunn as the most decorated act in ACM history with 32 wins on Sunday. Lambert won her ninth consecutive female vocalist of the year trophy and won twice for song of the year — as the performer and co-writer of Tin Man.

"I cannot believe this. I really can't. ...I love country music. It's my entire life," Lambert said onstage. "I will never ever take it for granted."

Florida Georgia Line's Tyler Hubbard wore an all-red ensemble and Brian Kelley was in all white when they hit the stage with pop singer Bebe Rexha to perform the massive hit Meant to Be, which is spending its 19th week on top of Billboard's Hot country songs chart. It ties Leroy Van Dyke's Walk On By as the third longest-running song of all-time on the chart.

Miranda Lambert poses backstage with her three awards, including her 10th consecutive award for female vocalist of the year. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

The longest-running No. 1 song of all time on the country charts, Sam Hunt's Body Like a Back Road, won single record of the year at the ACMs; Hunt didn't attend the show.

Little Big Town sang Elton John's Rocket Man in celebration of the icon's new album, Restoration, which features country singers covering his songs. Kane Brown and Lauren Alaina were impressive when they sang their duet, What Ifs. Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Kelsea Ballerini, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum and Dierks Bentley also performed.

McEntire, who performed with Kelly Clarkson, hosted the three-hour show a year after Bryan and Bentley did the job.

"It takes one woman to do the job of two men," she said, earning a rousing applause.

Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman, Karen Fairchild and Philip Sweet of musical group Little Big Town, left to right, performed Elton John's Rocket Man. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Old Dominion won vocal group of the year, besting Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum.

"This is heavy in a lot of ways," lead singer Matthew Ramsey said, holding the trophy in his hand.

"We're so lucky. Look at us, look at us!" he said about his bandmates, all dressed in trendy suits. "We look good. We feel good. We're friends. And we're having a ball.

"Thank you for letting us make music."